Saturday, November 17, 2012

Newark teachers got the shaft [Updated]

Warning to teachers. Please don't watch this video immediately after eating.

I was sickened to see Randi Weingarten and Tea-Party Gov. Christie on Morning Joe, fawning over each other and over the deal they cut on the Newark teachers' contract. It was the worst display of seat-at-the-table unionism I have seen in years. Both are hailing the deal as a "model" for the rest of the country. I hope against hope that it isn't. Christie called it "the most gratifying day of my governorship, by far." That should tell you something about the deal right there. New Jersey Education Commissioner and chief privatizer Chris Cerf (not be be confused with Che Guevara) called the contract "revolutionary." Union President Joseph Del Grosso was a little more restrained, calling it a "roadmap" and  “a step in the right direction for the teaching profession."

I can understand why many Newark teachers voted for the contract (actually, only a slight majority of city teachers even voted and 62% of them voted yes). They have been forced to work without any contract these past two years, under the state takeover of their schools, and now will receive some retroactive pay. They were also given some input into the design of their own evaluations which are still based largely on student test scores along with peer evaluation, and which will determine whether they receive "merit pay" from now on. So the argument could be made that this was the best they could get. Of course, that's not what Weingarten and Christie are saying.

Teacher pay is now also dependent upon the largesse of billionaires Eli Broad and  know-nothing power philanthropist Mark Zuckerberg who can pull the plug on his $100 million gift at any time -- for example, if Christie or Newark mayor Corey Booker were to be defeated in the next election. This is the same kind of top-down manipulation and leveraging of Gates and Broad grant money that Michelle Rhee and former Mayor Fenty pulled off in D.C. before voters gave them the boot. Newark schools have been turned into beggars operating largely on private funding to circumvent public decision-making. A Tea Party dream come true. 

Teachers are no longer guaranteed pay step and lane increases based on credentials. They can win bonuses for teaching in low-performing schools (not a bad idea in and of itself). Teachers who are deemed "ineffective" based on a test-based, value-added formula, can elect to be rated by an independent "peer validator." That review will be considered before determining their final ratings or whether they should be fired or "mentored." However, Newark School Superintendent Cami Anderson will have the final say if an agreement on a teacher's competence can't be reached. What? Where's the union grievance procedure in all this?

The Star-Ledger reports that Christie is now threatening the NJEA:
The AFT is only affiliated with Newark teachers; the rest of the state’s more than 100,000 teachers are aligned with the New Jersey Education Association, which insists merit pay is discriminatory and a recipe for low morale. "I hope that they would look at this as a model," Christie said of the NJEA. "If they don’t, they’ll become dinosaurs, because this is where education in America is moving, and you can either be part of the difference or you can be run over by it."
Edweek reports that critics of the contract include the members of a new political "caucus" or party within the NFT. Called the New Caucus, the group has posted a number of documents that pick apart aspects of the contract.
The New Caucus seems modeled on the rise of similar groups, such as the Caucus of Rank-and-File Educators in Chicago, from which emerged Karen Lewis, the hard-charging president of the Chicago Teachers' Union; and the the Movement of Rank-and-File Educators, a similar one in New York City.
Weingarten was one of Christie’s most prominent critics last year, when he slashed state pensions and health benefits by shifting more costs to public workers. Christie joked that if he could find common ground with Randi Weingarten, then Democratic President Barack Obama should be able to get along with Republicans in Washington. Buckle up, folks. 


  1. "Based on a test-based, value added formula...". This is simply not true. Did you read the contract?

  2. Buckle up? You are not kidding - watch for the Rhee-form take hold in the White House. Yeah, buckle up - there is a fight a-brewing.

  3. Anonymous (if that is indeed your real name). No I didn't read the contract and am wondering if any of the Newark teachers have read it? But I did read summaries of it in the press. This from the AP: "Teachers will be evaluated by a number of factors, including test scores, a panel of peers and administrators, and other student performance benchmarks."

    When you're evaluated on student performance benchmarks, including standardized test scores, that is called value-added. If you know something different that's in the contract, please inform us.

  4. America's number 1 union buster (well maybe 2 or 3 if you count Michelle Rhee and Jonah Edelman) Eli Broad, loves the Newark contract. He calls it an "historic step forward to recognize the value and achievements of great teachers."
    What else do you need to know?

  5. Randi Weingarten has been deeply involved with the Broad Foundation. She has led seminars about unions for trainees at the Broad Superintendents Academy many times. In its 2009 annual report, the Broad Foundation said,
    " Teacher unions have always been a formidable voice in public
    education. We decided at the onset of our work to invest in
    smart, progressive labor leaders like Randi Weingarten, head of
    the United Federation of Teachers in New York City for more
    than a decade and now president of the American Federation
    of Teachers (AFT). We partnered with Weingarten to fund two
    union-run charter schools in Brooklyn and to fund New York
    City’s first incentive-based compensation program for schools,
    as well as the AFT’s Innovation Fund. We had previously
    helped advance pay for performance programs in Denver and
    Houston, but we were particularly encouraged to see New York
    City embrace the plan."
    Page 11

    Weingarten also supported Michle Rhees (who is on the Board of the Broad Foundation) merit pay scheme in D.C. when Rhee was Chancellor.

  6. Did any of you see Gov. Christie on "Saturday Night Live" last night? People I talked to are REALLY impressed by him--they think he's really sincere, down-to-Earth, funny, charming, etc.
    It was duly noted that--out of anyone who acted on "SNL" klast night, he appeared to be the one who looked at the TelePrompter
    the least, appearing more natural and relaxed. Seems he might
    pursue a career in comedy or acting? (Wouldn't that be GREAT for all of our schoolchildren, parents & teachers?)

  7. Did anyone see Gov. Christie on "Saturday Night Live" yesterday? People I talked to thought he was very natural, down-to-Earth and funny. I thought--of all the actors who were on "SNL"--that Christie was the one who looked at the TelePrompter the least--great delivery of lines!

    Perhaps the Governor will consider a career in acting or improv? What a boost that would be to New Jersey schoolchildren,teachers, parents and school communities, not to mention the nation! (It appears to me that 2016 campaigning can never start soon enough!)

  8. Mike, thank you for the warning. Randi is such a disappointment. Thank you.


Agree? Disagree? Let me hear from you.